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“Everbody’s in a Sauna Together” – Here Are the Highlights of President Obama’s Visit in Finland

“Everbody’s in a Sauna Together” – Here Are the Highlights of President Obama’s Visit in Finland




T he former US President Barack Obama visited Finland at the end of September to attend the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki.

President Obama said that he regretted of not visiting Finland during his presidency of eight years, and now it was time fix that.

According to the organizers, Obama’s wish was to not hold a lecture or a seminar for the crowd of thousands, but instead, he wished to be interviewed on stage.

The co-founder of Skype, Niklas Zennström, was willing to grab the challenge.

Finland Today joined the historical session to bring you the highlights.

 Pictures: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today







It’s important for companies to care about institutions like the free press.

It’s equally important to care about the freedom of religion and non-discrimination and about the inclusion of women in debates.


Finland has about five and a half million people. Therefore, it’s very easy to have conversations.  “Everybody knows everybody, everybody’s in a sauna together,” Obama said.

According to Obama, there’s a reason why Finland and Norway are able to solve problems more efficiently than large countries.

 “There’s a social cohesion that comes about because of a smaller scale.”





According to Obama, oceans are a big problem.

“You can have Finland and Norway and Sweden taking care of their oceans but that’s not going to help you if Russia, the United States and China and Brazil do whatever they want.”

“There has to be a combination of greater local and human scale solutions and problem solving and institutions that create local solutions to local problems, but there has to be a connecting web that pulls people together to be able to act globally.”


“I often tell young people when I talk to them. If you had to choose a moment in history which to be born and you didn’t know ahead of time who you’re going to be. You didn’t know whether you were going to be a Vietnamese person or a Finn . . . . When would you choose?” Obama said.

“In fact, you choose, now.” The world’s never been wealthier, healthier, better educated, more tolerant than now.”

“Or at least maybe it was. A couple of years ago.”

(The crowd exploded in laughter.)

why finns are happy

According to Obama, how people are seeing their lives depends on what they’re seeing next to them.

Finland is happy and Nordic countries are happy because “relatively speaking you have lower levels of inequality.”

“The poorest child in Finland is still able to go to one of the best schools in the world. For free.”

“Because Finland decided to make a collective investment in excellent public schools and to pay teachers very high salaries and make them very highly trained.”

According to Obama, that’s an example of a smart policy “that takes all these positives that we get from technology and science and then reinvests enough of them back in the social pool.”

“Now everybody feels that ‘OK’ I’ve got a chance!”


President Obama connected well with the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd and his interviewer, Swedish Niklas Zennström. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

About The Author

Tony Öhberg

The founder. Reporter and photojournalist. Salesman. Fluent in three languages. Pushing a career in journalism spanning two decades. Always looking for opportunities to tell another story.